USA TODAY College – March 22, 2017
College students get time off from school every spring — and scores spend break partying it up in popular places such as South Padre Island, Panama City Beach, Miami Beach or Cabo San Lucas. And at the end of the week those breakers often leave behind empty beer cans, liquor bottles, cigarettes, trash and damage to the beaches and marine life.
Some cities have already begun clean-up initiatives to keep the litter to a minimum, or have banned alcohol during spring break season to reduce alcoholic beverage containers from trashing their beaches.
For most people, beach towns are getaway vacation destinations. But don’t forget that for others, they are home.
According to Project Know, 40% of college students travel to spring break destinations, spending more than $1 billion annually for trips that are often “rife with alcohol and drugs.”
Project Know studied thousands of spring break Instagram posts with the hashtag #SpringBreak to see what locations were most popular.
Several Florida cities, including Miami, Orlando and Panama City Beach, made their top 10 list for the most popular spring break destinations.
Florida cities also made the top 10 list of cities with the highest percentage of drugs and alcohol in the Instagram photos that were studied. Instagram posts with drug- or alcohol-related photos or captions sparked a lot of interaction and likes.
And — surprise! — popular destinations for college-aged people to visit in March and April see increased trash being left behind. To minimize the environmental impact and prevent further litter and pollution, some cities have been working hard to keep their beaches beautiful.
Last February, the City of Miami launched the Keep Miami Beach Clean campaign to combat spring break litter.The city advertises this campaign using the hashtag #KEEPMBCLEAN. During this spring break season, the city has been spreading the message of eliminating trash on its beaches.
Grant Brown, recreational and cultural affairs director of the city of Gulf Shores, said the city has implemented several clean up and anti-litter programs to keep their beaches clean. “People tend to leave trash behind, and the issue with that is they’re leaving more than just footprints,” Brown said.
He said Gulf Shores implemented a litter ordinance in 2016 that addressed the issue and warned people to clean up after themselves or face litter fines up to $500. Brown said the city also placed trash cans and recycle bins every 200 feet on the beach and changes those cans twice a day.
“Beaches are very sensitive,” Brown said. “Gulf Shores’ main attraction is our beach and we want to keep it clean and safe. No one wants to visit a dirty beach.”
“Students come for the beauty of the beaches and they want it to be like that every year, but they forget that if they leave trash and debris behind, it won’t stay that way,” said Cecile Carson, vice president of litter and affiliate relations at Keep America Beautiful.
Carson said Keep America Beautiful has 620 local affiliates, many of which who try to work directly with colleges to encourage students to keep beaches clean during their spring break trips.
“Some local affiliates encourage having a designated groups of students to have trash bags or recycle containers,” Carson said. “Some affiliates do events to draw people in and make it like a fun game – Who can shoot the most cans into a recycling container.”
Carson said if college students who love going to the beach and having fun leave their trash behind, the next person who comes along can’t enjoy it the same way. She said litter can have a very negative impact on the environment and harm marine life.